Nike made history on Sunday when it debuted the first-ever football cleat built using rapid-prototyping technology. Weighing no more than 5.6 ounces, the “Vapor Laser Talon” boasts a contoured three-dimensionally printed plate designed to provide optimal traction, as well as help football athletes maintain their “drive stance” longer and more effectively, according to the sportswear giant.
Nike engineers crafted the plate of the cleat using Selective Laser Sintering, a manufacturing technique that uses high-powered lasers to fuse small particles of materials into a three-dimensional shape. The process, says the company, allowed it to develop a fully functional plate and traction system not only within a fraction of the traditional timeframe but also at a fraction of the weight.
With 3D-printing, Nike was able to make design updates in a matter of hours rather than months.
Because SLS extends the limitations of conventional manufacturing, allowing for the creation of shapes not previously possible, Nike was able to make design updates in a matter of hours rather than months. “SLS technology has revolutionized the way we design cleat plates—even beyond football—and gives Nike the ability to create solutions that were not possible within the constraints of traditional manufacturing processes,” Shane Kohatsu, director of Nike Footwear Innovation, says in a statement.